Bow Wow Wow Wows 'em
Review by Eric Beaumont

Nearly 24 years ago, British magazine The Face reviewed the first LP from a new band fronted by a 16-year-old girl named Annabella Lwin. "Bow Wow Wow is for the under-14s and the over-40s, the innocent and the utterly jaded," the reviewer wrote. And it was true: With their Malcolm McLaren-fueled mix of irreverent lyrics half-sung, half-shouted over trebly
tribal drums; snapping, clicking bass; and echo-drenched surf guitar, Bow Wow Wow was equally beloved by kids looking for the perfect beat and serious music fans who'd had it with pop, prog and stadium pomp.

Judging by the big crowd at Milwaukee's PrideFest this past Saturday night, that fan base still holds true. Everyone at the show looked over 40 or under 14, and they all had a blast.

Bow Wow Wow justified its continued existence with an energetic 45-minute set that packed one new original ("A Thousand Tears," a beautiful, stripped-down meditative ballad) and two hilariously great new covers ("These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" and a stompin' Afro-glitter version of "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"-yes, the Smiths song). Lwin showed
unbelievable endurance and exuberance, with a sweeter, more expressive tone than the last time Bow Wow Wow played Wisconsin-at Alpine Valley, before much of the crowd was even born. Original bassist Leigh Gorman (co-writer of Malcolm McLaren's 1995 masterpiece Paris) rattled teeth with his brutal Burundi Black-inspired bass noise, and drummer Devin Beaman and guitarist Phil Gough sang and beat their instruments with total commitment.

On their first LP, Bow Wow Wow asked listeners, "Why are babies so wise?" Given that Lwin was only 14 when she joined the band, did she even know what McLaren's lyrics concerning sexy Eiffel Towers and demolition of the work ethic were all about? In a Face interview she gave at 15, Lwin comes across as very worldly and resolutely innocent. She was fighting the good pop-art fight, struggling to be taken seriously.

"The early stuff we did," Lwin tells me after the PrideFest set, "was all about using my imagination. Now I get it, obviously, years down the road. I was the ideal vehicle. I was a virgin singing songs that were totally, outrageously, sexually innovative in a lot of ways, but I didn't know anything about it because I hadn't done it.

"I went into a solo career after Bow Wow Wow with RCA, and I just basically grew up," Lwin said. "I grew up real quick after Bow Wow Wow, very quickly."

Lwin remains a heroine to the autonomously minded, in great part because of her total commitment to her work. "My first passion is music," she said. "That's my first love. So it carried me through, well into my teens, past the band, into my next stage of life, as a
songwriter, singer, performer . discovering myself through my work."

That next stage, Lwin admits, was brought about by late guitarist Matthew Ashman, who said to her in 1983, "'You know, Annabella, you've got to start singing. You can't keep screaming and shouting; you've got to start writing. What do you want to write about?'"

Lwin and her band mates-in particular, Gorman, who scored the recent Snoop Dogg vehicle The Tenants-now write, record and produce around the clock, around the world.

As for their participation in PrideFest and other gay-pride gigs this year, Gorman says, "We're inclusionist. We don't care what kind of race, what you look like, [whether] you're gay, straight, trans-we think everyone should be treated equally, no matter what they want to do, wherever they want to do it."